stone wall mason 392x272Environmental Stewardship (ES) is the main policy mechanism used in England to deliver environmental benefits on agricultural land. These schemes have traditionally been delivered at the scale of the individual holding through agreements with the individual land manager. However, there is increasing recognition of the greater potential that may come from managing land at larger scales than currently delivered through individual farm-level agreements. Whilst the principle of land-scale scale schemes is established, there remains uncertainty as to the most cost effective ways to design and deliver such schemes.

Jane Mills, together with Chris Short and Paul Courtney undertook a project for Defra and Natural England to explore different mechanisms for delivering co-ordinated agri-environmental schemes, looking at the pros and cons of each and examining in more detail the cost-effectiveness of the approaches used in 9 landscape-scale project or schemes and their applicability to ES. The project aim was achieved through three main objectives:   1) Conduct a scoping report reviewing different landscape co-ordination styles and assessing the pros and cons of each one. This will be achieved through an extensive literature of a range of different co-ordination styles delivering landscape scale benefits and will include case studies of the styles used in the UK and globally

2) Detailed examination through case studies of the economic costs and benefits of nine different approaches to co-ordination, including identification of the income foregone, additional costs and transaction costs and the personnel involved.   3) Identification of the co-ordination style which best delivers ES landscape scale co-ordination objectives, including consideration of the circumstances where each style would be appropriate and limitations on the use of each style.   Telephone interviews were conducted with delivery agents and participants involved in nine landscape-scale projects or schemes in the UK and globally to ascertain the implementation costs and benefits of each approach. Multicriteria analysis was used to compare the different approaches exploring the economic costs and benefits of each style, the circumstances where the approach is most appropriate and its usage limitations and compatibility with WTO and EC regulations.

The final report can be downloaded from the Defra site.

In summary, the key findings of the research revealed that if Environmental Stewardship (ES) is to be used as a mechanism to achieve management at a landscape-scale in England, adaptation of its design and delivery is required to ensure a more co-ordinated approach. A clear message emerging from the case studies is that to achieve this cost-effectively will depend on the target area and the required environmental outcomes, which will impact on the choice of using financial incentives or more innovative, facilitated approaches. This implies that ES should avoid a “one size fits all‟ approach to achieving co-ordinated action. A mechanism for landscape-scale delivery that might work for an upland common might not succeed on a lowland floodplain which is trying to deliver different environmental objectives. Without this local sensitivity, ES may well fall short of achieving cost-effective co-ordinated action amongst farmers across the variety of likely target areas.